More Evidence that California Compares Favorably to Other HSR Routes
One of the common arguments against high speed rail in California is that the state doesn’t have enough population or population density to support high speed trains. This stems from a flawed application of common arguments about urban rail systems, where you usually do want to route light rail, streetcars, and subways along dense corridors, to intercity rail. With intercity rail, what you really need is large populations, period.
But this argument also flaws from a false understanding of the evidence. The assumption here is that high speed rail in Europe is a success because of much greater populations and population densities. But the evidence shows that California compares well on population density, and compares even better on overall population along the route than some of the most popular European HSR systems.
Nearly three years ago, Matt Melzer provided stats comparing California to Spain:
California has about the same population density as Spain, is richer than spain, and although it’s not described here, California’s geography is very similar to that of Spain (their landscapes even look alike).
But we can now add more data. Yesterday Tim De Chant at Per Square Mile provided a map showing that parts of the US match up well with Europe on density:
You can see that the Amtrak Northeast Corridor, which operates a profitable highish-speed rail service, matches well with France, Germany, even the Low Countries.
In terms of raw population, California is actually even better than some of the prominent European HSR routes. After reading the Sacramento Bee’s excellent pro-HSR editorial and their graphic comparing California HSR to LGV Sud Est from last weekend, the blogger Burrito Justice decided to make a similar map comparing California HSR to both LGV Sud Est and the Madrid-Barcelona AVE:
Once again, the evidence suggests California HSR has every chance of success.
UPDATE: Burrito Justice also has a map of densities along HSR routes, comparing California to Spain, France, and Japan. Worth a look!